The Strad Issue: August 2016
Description: A Schubert Quintet that should go straight to the top of the list
Musicians: Ebène Quartet, Gautier Capuçon (cello) Matthias Goerne (baritone) Laurène Durantel (double bass)
Composer: Schubert
Catalogue number: ERATO 2564 64876-1

‘It is a quintet reflecting both real life and dreams… joy and mourning, revelry in the open air and monks walking to prayer through the cloisters.’ The Ebène Quartet’s description of Schubert’s C major Quintet in the booklet may seem poetic, but the strength of their belief is borne out by their playing. Enriched by the extra cello of Gautier Capuçon, this performance is noteworthy for its sheer richness and variety of colour. The scherzo, for instance – rugged and almost rasping – contrasts with a dark-toned trio that also retains a sublime transparency and openness.

Yet the most remarkable playing comes in the Adagio. The first section expands organically, levitating over the cello pizzicato. When the three inner voices take the tune, ppp, and the first violin joins the bass-line pizzicato, the effect is touchingly fragile. But more extraordinary still is the middle section – not only for its restless, surging spirit but also for the still, devastating transition into the return of the first section.

The quartet is joined by esteemed Lieder singer Matthias Goerne and double bassist Laurène Durantel for four Schubert songs – including those quoted in the ‘Rosamunde’ and ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartets. With detailed, upfront sound enhancing the playing, this disc is sure to gain a footing on this year’s awards lists.

Edward Bhesania